Franchise Systems Thrive with UniFi’s Data Standardization Method
UniFi’s first client was a multi-unit franchisee with Jersey Mike’s Subs. Over the past nine years, the company has acquired more franchise accounts by successfully making order from chaos.
When Lexi Correll, a licensed CPA, opened Correll Accounting in 2010, her first client was a multi-unit franchisee with Jersey Mike’s Subs. This first client piqued Correll’s interest in the franchising industry and eventually led to more franchise accounts. Working closely in that niche, Correll discovered that a majority of franchisors did not have comparable financial data from one franchisee to the next. From there, she made it her mission to make order from chaos by unifying and standardizing the financial data among franchisees.
“The biggest issue that surfaced in every instance on the franchisor side is that they did not have accurate or comparable data from their franchisees,” Correll adds. “Glaring errors would jump off of the reports and even if it looked accurate, each franchisee had different report formats, chart of accounts, accounting basis, reporting periods, delivery of financial statements, and that made it impossible for a franchisor to develop KPIs, best practices or identify trends and low performance. It was nearly impossible to monitor the financial health of the franchise because the accounting data was so inconsistent; it was like comparing apples to oranges. Sadly, this left many valuable financial tools unusable to our franchisee clients.”
After 9 years of operating as Correll Accounting, the company rebranded on Nov. 1, 2019 to UniFi. What began as a small local business offering bookkeeping services has evolved into much more and the former name no longer aligned with the company’s primary mission: to unify accounting data into one usable, standardized format for the benefit of each franchisee. To achieve this mission, Correll realized that the company needed to broaden its scope because its franchisee clients don’t operate within a solitary bubble, instead they belong to a whole system.
Today, Valencia, Calif.-based UniFi offers solutions that take the whole system into consideration so that every franchisee thrives. Their accounting solution is designed to bring standardization and uniformity to the accounting data of the entire franchise system. “By working with the entire franchise system in mind, at both the franchisee and franchisor level, we’ve developed a solution that creates a platform for unified and cohesive accounting data throughout the entire franchise system, ultimately for the benefit of each individual franchisee,” Correll says. Their Accounting Data Standardization (ADS) solution includes four key components: common chart of accounts (CCOA), uniform accounting software, various import/export tools and ongoing, monthly bookkeeping services to franchisees.
Accounting Data Standardization
For Correll, the ADS process begins with the first three components of their approach. “Getting every franchisee on the same chart of accounts, the same accounting software and linked up to the integrations is the first step,” says Correll. Because each franchise system is unique, a one size fits all approach does not work. “The unique mix of franchisees, the franchise’s history, current systems and culture have to be considered when developing a game plan for ADS,” Correll explains.
A CCOA is the framework for standardizing the data and it’s vital that every franchisee be on the same chart of accounts. Because of this, UniFi offers a Chart of Account Conversion service to migrate every franchisee to the prescribed CCOA. Converting the system can take time, the amount of which depends on the culture of the franchise, Correll says. “We have services that will help franchisees convert while preserving their historical accounting data,” she explains.
Selecting the right accounting software is critical to long term success in ADS because it dictates the avenue of inputting and accessing the data. If these processes are cumbersome, it won’t be sustainable. QuickBooks Online, UniFi’s online-based accounting system of choice, has been an industry game-changer, Correll says. “It can be accessed from anywhere, it’s easy to use, it can integrate with anything and it is reasonably priced,” she notes.
Integrations play a key role because the more data that can be automatically populated and extracted, the more accurate, consistent and accessible the accounting data will be. “We setup as many data sources as possible to automatically import, such as the point of sale, expense tracking systems, payroll data, scheduling systems and so on. This technology is becoming increasingly available and that has made standardization more possible than ever before. On the export side, it allows franchisees and franchisors to access KPIs and analytics in real-time.”
Once all the information has been imported to QuickBooks Online, the need for human interaction and expertise is still required to reconcile imports, to manually enter remaining data, evaluate completeness and so on. Once the data is fully reconciled and closed, it is available to various users on the backend.
UniFi’s ongoing monthly bookkeeping services is designed to keep the data current and accurate. However, even though the process is standardized, Correll notes that there are variations between franchisees that must be addressed. “We stress that each franchisee is unique,” she adds. “Even though we develop a standardized bookkeeping process, we recognize the need to tweak that process on a case-by-case basis. That’s why each one of our clients has a dedicated Account Specialist who knows them and their business, allowing us to meet the individual needs of each one of our franchisee clients, while still keeping the big picture in mind. It’s a win-win!”
Working in Harmony
One of UniFi’s greatest opportunities is walking franchisees through the process of why they need ADS. “Franchisees are our first priority and it is to their benefit if the whole Franchise System is working together in harmony,” she adds. “Standardizing the data opens up a treasure trove of financial tools to the franchisees.”
With this approach, UniFi has seen rapid growth over the past few years and continues to add new franchise systems. To date, the company works with 35 franchise systems. “I was at a conference for one of our franchise systems and we had other franchisee clients selling our services for us,” Correll remembers. “All of our business has been referral-based and we are constantly onboarding new clients because our services are speaking for themselves.”
UniFi offers its bookkeeping services for a low, flat monthly rate to various types of industries, including construction, restaurant, retail, service, manufacturing and more. It’s a turnkey solution that fully offloads the bookkeeping function from their client’s plate, so the franchisee can focus on running their business.
Moving forward, UniFi will continue to focus on supporting franchise systems and has become the go-to accounting platform with its one-of-a-kind Accounting Data Standardization service.